Re: virus: Un-natural De-selection

Tim Rhodes (
Wed, 20 Aug 1997 09:55:19 -0700 (PDT)

On Mon, 18 Aug 1997, Brett Lane Robertson wrote:

> Saying that DNA is the agent for biological evolution is like saying
> that the Mississippi is the agent for returning water to the ocean--it
> is one of the more obvious ways but in turn is a result of more-and-more
> subtle processes

True enough. But talking about the "water cycle" (evaporation,
condensation and return) doesn't help you much if you're trying to build a
levy! You'll end up all wet, Brett!!!

DNA is what holds the code that creates the bodies that make you and me
and the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees. And *you* don't
think it *might* just be an important part of "the plan"? Ignorance,
Brett. Straight up ignorance.

> >Do you believe that it is *genes* which "compete"? (I wish we had a less
> If there is a more dense example of "competition" (and that is the human
> race), then there is a less dense example in the gene. If one is willing to
> say that genes do not compete (they are not willful), then one must be
> willing to say that their product also does not compete (that humans are not
> willful).

Why? A carrot seed isn't food, but the grown carrot is (Er, whassup,
Doc?). I don't see your logic here.

Yes, genes are not willful, they don't have an agenda. That's just a way
of looking at them that is convenient for use to understand. It's awfully
wordy to say, "The genes that for whatever reason survive and replicate
copies of themselves better will proliferate to a greater extent than
those that are less successful at copying and spreading" when you can just
say "genes compete". It's a shorthand, that's all. Don't confuse it with
intentionality. Genes have no intentionality.

I can't recommend Richard Dawkin's _Selfish Gene_ enough. (Don't be put off
by the name. Shorthand again.) I think part of it may be on-line
somewhere. Maybe someone else knows.

-Prof. Tim